Nell Devitt's clay work is about texture, contrast, and chance. Combining minimalism and wabi-sabi, Devitt creates irregular smoke fired clay tiles which are hung in modular formats. Whether installations originate as pencil drawings or from her direct experience with clay, Devitt works to eliminate everything that is not essential when she designs, constructs, and fires the tiles. What is important to Devitt is the abstract core of each idea, and the creation of clay tile wall installations that are strong, unique, and can be made within the parameters of a single smoke firing.
Beginning each clay tile with a slab roller, Devitt then presses a hand cut template into the clay to produce the basic pattern. Textural detail is added by incising, carving, and scraping, and a clay slip is applied to areas to create the semi-gloss surface. The black color and straw marks are the result of a post-firing technique of smoking. When the clay reaches maturation temperature in the kiln, the tiles are individually removed with a pair of tongs and placed in a closed reduction chamber full of straw. The straw ignites, oxygen is cut off, carbon molecules enter the clay - the tile is changing. This technique produces the black color of the tiles, the unpredictable straw marks, and the highly irregular, imperfect and uneven surface.
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